JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – To prevent the spread of COVID-19, orders were issued in March that suspended jury trials and other proceedings at courthouses across Florida.
But that left county jails, including Duval County’s, to house those facing serious charges until their trials could move forward.
That process is beginning Monday when several hundred prospective jurors will come to the Duval County Courthouse to be considered for selection on the 4th Judicial Circuit’s grand jury.
District 4 Chief Judge Mark Mahon explained that first-degree murder charges must be brought through the grand jury process, so those cases can’t move forward without an impaneled grand jury.
“This is a necessary step in the criminal justice system. Frankly, the delay, there are a number of people in jail on charges, and we need to go ahead and get those matters resolved,” Mahon said.
Mahon said the court is taking precautions for COVID-19, including using a room that would typically hold more than 500 people to hold just 60 so that they can be socially distanced.
“Their seats will be assigned for the duration of the jury selection. There won’t be any transfer of any individual to another,” Mahon said. “The entire selection will occur in that room.”
Those who have been summoned for jury duty must participate in the process but there are allowances for those who have concerns regarding coronavirus. Those who might be high-risk can contact the Clerk of Courts, Mahon said, or discuss it with him at the courthouse.
“They’ll be able to tell me if they have concerns whether from sickness, or exposure or even a financial hardship that the courts are able to consider these days under these new COVID rules,” Mahon said.
For more information, click this link to watch a jury welcome video that includes safety procedures at the courthouse.
If you did not receive a jury summons this week, hundreds more will be sent out in the coming days since jury trials are expected to resume the week of Oct. 12.